Online Embodiment — ep 36 is live

Episode 36 is live!

Online Embodiment and Curating Virtual Space with Vagus Study Group founder, and a dear friend of mine, Lisa Elliott, is live. Go to the episode page or find on iTunes et al.

Love, LB

How
Do I
Listen to others? 
As if everyone were my Master
Speaking to me
His
Cherished
Last
Words.

– Hafiz

On Being a Good Student

The game has flipped.

It used to be: good information was hard to find; good teachers and teachings were rare. The onus, in many ways, was on the teacher.

Now, of course, that’s still true in a certain respect. But also true now more than ever, I reckon in this age of near-infinite material being but a click away, is the importance of being a good student.

What makes a good student?

• You are willing to learn, and also willing to stop learning and practice what you’ve learned.

• You don’t think you know everything; you don’t think you know nothing.

• You’re willing to suspend belief for the sake of experiment, thought also you remain an adult, not handing over your discernment at the feet of a guru.

• You go through periods of introspection, taking the teachings in and treating your body-mind as a very precious temple. You also go through periods of expressivity and effort, inhabiting your body-mind as a hungry tiger inhabits the forest, fierce and unrelenting.

• You’re willing to try new teachers and teachings.

• You’re willing to dive deep into material, not stopping until you know, in your heart of hearts, that you understand what’s being taught (and not merely an ability to regurgitate, verbally or physically).

• You can take care of yourself and you’re also willing to bust your ass trying.

• You don’t seek confirmation; you seek guidance in confirming for yourself what’s true.

• You’re not an island. You’re part of an ecosystem.

You're a student. Beware any teacher who isn’t.

What's Happening in a Yoga Asana Besides Stretching, Anatomically Speaking

As “yoga” and “stretching” are often used synonymously, let’s consider what’s happening in a yoga asana* beyond tissue lengthening, i.e. stretching.

 On the off chance that my stick figure yogi isn’t going to get me into the Smithsonian: this practitioner is in a forward fold, their legs on the right and head/arms to the left.

On the off chance that my stick figure yogi isn’t going to get me into the Smithsonian: this practitioner is in a forward fold, their legs on the right and head/arms to the left.

Note: the following is meant to be for the lay-reader, but that said, it is fairly technical. All that to say: if you don't get every word 100%, this is meant to be a supplement to the picture above, as much as vice versa, so if you get one and not the other, you've mostly got it.

💧 COMPRESSION: as one tissue group lengthens, there’s a corresponding compression, usually on the opposite side of the lengthening. We could call the main recipient of this compression the “fluid body” (taking this from Tias Little): this includes blood, lymph, the gooey morass of interstitial fluids, and the organs and glands.

And while of course it’s not just the fluids that are being compressed, the map of the endocrine system — which uses the blood as its “highways” to transport data between glands — is a good one to consider the benefits of compression.

✨ AWARENESS: two pretty distinct aspects here:

  1. Data going from the limbs to the CNS = afferent nerve signals = “I can feel [whatever you’re feeling]” = proprioception and interoception (which are processed in distinct areas of the brain, but we’ll lump them together here as “sensory information coming into the brain”).
     
  2. Data going from the CNS out to the limbs = efferent nerve signals = “I am moving/stabilizing [whatever you’re moving/stabilizing]” = motor control.

Side discussion: awareness is a big word. Does it extend beyond the nervous system? I sure think so. But we immediately run into “the hard problem” of consciousness: how does one study the thing that is doing the studying? We avoid that here by talking about what qualities of the nervous system we do know, which involve relaying information via neural impulses.

↔️ STRETCHING: much of what makes the distinction in the quality of a pose is the apex of the stretch. Whether you have a rounded back or not, your whole back body — or the superficial back line, to use the language of the Anatomy Trains — is stretching.

So what makes a good forward fold vs a bad one (and please, all arguments about everyone getting to do their own thing notwithstanding; of course that’s true; but some movements are more well done than others)?

The answer is a question: where are the apex(es) of the movement? In a forward fold, like this as in many asana, it’s the hips folding into flexion, aka hinging at the hips.

GERM LAYERS OF THE EMBRYO are also part of this schematic** 

There are three that make it all the way through (sorry, neural crest). The guts 💧 arise of the endoderm; the nervous system ✨ and skin are of the ectoderm; the fascia, bones and musculature are of the middle, and quite pervasive, layer of the sandwich, the mesoderm.

* yoga asana, or any stretching whilst paying attention for that matter, actually any movement at all; yoga is just easier to study because its movement stops now and then

** want to go even further out on a limb with me? If you know the Ayurvedic doshas ...

💧 endoderm = kapha

✨ ectoderm = vata

🔥 mesoderm = pitta

Hope this was useful for you 

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It's Not the Fist; It's the Clenching

This video is a little body-thought experiment that goes beyond the “well, is posture important or not?” dichotomy.

This was much inspired by my conversation with Susan Harper way back when, which I just re-listened to part of.

Also, I really been loving making these few one minute videos. They are excellent training for a long-road rambling thinker like me. If you're appreciating these (more than just "that's nice," but like "yeah these are helpful!") please let me know and that'll be good fuel to keep making them. Thanks :)

 

Intent

It’s a wonderful, albeit overused, idea.

If it feels a bit too woo-woo for you, try this thought experiment on: Remember when you were learning to walk? (Me neither so let’s imagine;)) Whatever you want to call what you did to go from the ground to standing without having done it before.

That.

It wasn’t about engaging this or that muscle, though muscular engagement certainly did happen.

It wasn’t about knowing a progression, though a progression did happen (and it’s a beautiful one, as lots of us movement folks are figuring out and incorporating into the work we do).

It wasn’t even a “practice” you were “doing” yet. And you didn’t know if other kids were doing it or not.

But something in your DNA, in the root of your being, wanted to walk.

That.

So back to our original word, I am struck by:

1. the power of intent — or whatever you want to call it — and the self-organization that happens around it when it’s real,

but now, also,

2. this question: who, exactly, is the one with the intent to do something?

(Is it really something you need to do or is it already there? And if it’s not there, we could say there there is an intent there do not do, or to be still or whatever else.)

🍰

ps get Anatomy of the Breath for $15 — which is half off — by using this link, which will remain valid through the end of March: https://www.udemy.com/draft/1580660/?couponCode=KNOWTHYSELF

Integration vs Going to the One Source Before Fragmentation Occurred

"Somato-spiritual breath-body integration + shamanic unity awareness practice with Chakra Cleanz (tm)."

There's quite a bit of fusion of previously-disparate strands these days, no?

Acro yoga on stand up paddle boards. CrossFit with Drake, ending in meditation. Somatic meditation movement workshops like the one Brooke Thomas and I put together for this summer.

The upside of integrating several practices is being able to then offer something that is more inherently complete. It's more like an orange — with its near infinite array of co-factors — than just the isolate of Vitamin C.

The downside is we can lose sight of the nature of this integration — namely that what we are "integrating" was, perhaps, never separate to begin with; that we created the separation to help make sense of things.

And if we're not careful we can lose sight of the already-unbroken nature.

You don't actually need to put the vase back together that you've only smashed with your mind.

———————

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Water, Muscles and Light as Energy with Gerald Pollack — ep 33 — is live 🧡

Gerald Pollack has spent more hours studying water and the nature of muscle contraction than you've spent doing just about anything. Beyond his work with water, which is hugely worth checking out — you could start with this Ted Talk or his book The Fourth Phase of Water — Jerry is a very bright, kind and well-seasoned scientist with a lot to say about the current state of scientific affairs.

In our talk, we cover:

1. Water (particularly its "fourth phase")

2. The nature of science, and experiments

3. The nature of muscle contraction, and Jerry's work with water explaining contraction beyond the most-usually-cited actin/myosin model

4. The ways in which we use light as energy, through water and infrared

He's a gem. As per usual, enjoy via the player below, this download or iTunes, Spotify, or whatever app you use to listen. Thanks for supporting the show :)

Quick Little Shoulder Mobility Movement

Here’s the kind of stuff we’re doing as warmup for a strength and mobility class I teach. Perhaps you'd like to give it a little go? It's fun to get into the little nooks and crannies, I think, and probably in a new way unless you're already doing this kind of thing. Computer break time.

Imagine you’re scraping the inside of a large bowl with your shoulder blades. Go slow. Squeeze your fists and keep your arms straight. Get as much range of motion as you can whilst maintaining the all that:)

The idea is that you ...

🦅 find yr scapulae (💪 🧠)

🦉 dissociate ^ from elbow bending

🦆 get into some of the inner stickies in your deep shoulder

🦇 oh yeah and breathe and enjoy :)

Getting Physically Stronger by Moving With Uncomfortable Emotions and Thoughts

I just finished my morning movement / workout session with my friend Nicole. (We train together twice a week.)

This morning, as many mornings over this past year, I feel very grateful — and a bit amazed — at how much stronger, more mobile, and what a wider range of frequencies I have access to in my body versus a couple years ago, even a few months ago.

The amazement is how I've always wanted these kinds of results from my training, but only the past couple years am getting them, and in such a deep way, with not necessarily spending that much more time training.

It's the emotional labor.

But before we get to that, I'd like to be clear that I do move a fair amount these days, but almost without exception:

  1. I don't do anything that's not fun for me. (Like yesterday, I was planning on going to yoga, but brunch sounded more fun so I did that instead.)
     
  2. I work out with less weight than I used to, and I'm way stronger than I used to be.

So, what's different?

Hard to put my finger on exactly ... I keep learning a ton so I do employ a lot of it is "try this instead" kind of modifying ... though I am hardly at all in the camp of "here is the proper way to do such and such a movement." That is limiting and only partially true, no matter what's being said, and for me its application is well umbrella'd under the following ...

My dedicated workout time is usually mentally and emotionally exhausting.

Like, in a fun and good way, but still.

Like when I'm practicing my hanging drills, I'm way, way back on what I could be doing, and am instead seeking and finding these little pockets that cause my whole autonomic nervous system to rev up. I'll feel like a caged animal, and just want to get the hell out of there ...

It's a positional thing turned emotional. It's form turned function. It's anatomy turned physiology. It's mechanotransduction!

All this is happening under what looks from the outside like pretty benign movements. It's secret work.

It takes all I have to stay focused, even partially, and to just stay with it, no matter how I feel (emotionally; this is not about pushing into pain one bit).

And, again, it's crazy how much stronger, and more mobile and resilient I am because of this work.

Sorry if I'm a broken record, but just to reiterate: it's not a "what;" it's a "how." (And, somewhat semantically perplexing to say but true, a lot of that "how" is to change up, and keep investigating and holding very sacred, the "what.")

===

So ...

I'm only 37, so perhaps I'll write something more profound when I'm 70, but still ... I'm at an age where lots of people say "yeah, that just starts to happen" with body breakdowns and whatnot.

So it's great to feel my body opening up, like way up, in no uncertain terms.

This is not about avoiding pain. (Good luck with that, anyone.)

It IS about not only "confronting" some demons via somatic experiencing — which I would contend is just as readily available at a 225-lb barbell as it is in a Peter Levine-trained therapist's office — but, perhaps ...

Dancing with those demons as well. Moving with them.

===

It's corny when put into words. It HAS to be. That's the nature of something becoming cute and tidy in language.

It's something different as a lived experience. (As many of you know; and most of us continue to find out, ever deepening.)

Love from the abyss, right back into its own heart.

LB + TBA

Nobody Going Nowhere

“I need to be someone special, going somewhere. But I’m not.”

Classic makings for anxiety/fomo, no?

Post that on facebook and, if you’re lucky, a hundred friends will reply in support “yes you are special; you’ve got this!”

Those friends are great to have.

Because it’s stupid to hear from someone else that you’re nobody going nowhere, even though that seems, to me, to be a much clearer reflection of what’s true.

==

Lately I’ve been re-living a painful experience I had many times I had as a kid.

I would be standing there, talking to someone when … this meta-awareness would come over me. It was not liberating-feeling, though; it was like a fog, or a virus, something that infected my brain and then all of a sudden I was so painfully aware of everything happening, I couldn’t think clearly anymore.

I remember that feeling, the impending sensation of the awareness shifting, as a kid — from probably 8 until, though less and less as I got older, well into my late 20s — and thinking “oh jeez, here it comes again.”

==

That whatever-you-call-it has been resurfacing again. I’ve been getting to know it.

The fog and stress I felt as a child, and what I have experienced many times lately, feel like a byproduct — not a necessary one but one that happened all the same — to the tune of the belief I opened this post with: “I need to be someone special, going somewhere. But I’m not. Instead I’m just [whatever I’m doing].”

But this time, for whatever host of reasons, something else has been emerging as part of the conversation.

It says something like, “What if this is it?”

And, in that moment of reckoning, the anxiety falls away, completely, and a deep peace is all that's left.

==

"What if this is it?" did not come as a new-age-Socratic demand or instruction. It's a real question. (That's a crucial but often overlooked aspect, I think. It's not question-as-strategy-to-avoid.)

What if … THIS … this right now, like right now right now … is it? Like finished. End of story. This is it, pack up your bags, goodnight that’s really all the reality / god / awareness / whatever you’re ever going to experience.

==

==

==

It’s not what I thought it would be.

=

(Y tu? I am all ears.)

 

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Advice on Finding a Movement Teacher

I would not trust a teacher

Who is not willing to run 'til exhausted

Through the streets

As if chasing and being chased both,

 

To make a fool of himself in such a fashion

That his audience may actually find him a fool,

Or a traitor or a blasphemer,

And not, clearly, a deep-thinking poet

Cloaked in the fashionable garment

      of risk.

 

No, I would not trust anyone for advice

Who has not been lost, and afraid,

In the woods behind her own home.

 

Who knows a storm — and its passing —

Like either a mad man or

Someone who's bound herself

in some very unlucky predicaments?

 

II

 

A fool will act without consideration.

An intellectual will make guesses with firm foundations.

A spiritual person will disguise her real desires

      and intentions.

 

A true sage will stand with you in the fire

And not try to talk you out of it

      one inch,

Nor speculate on the nature of ash

      or even the water

      or what will quench what.

 

What Stems From What?

What stems from what? A scenario, food for thought ...

“My back hurts because my hips are out of whack.”

What does out of whack mean to you?

“You know … this hip is higher than the other … you can see that, right?”

For sure. I’m just not convinced that’s at the root of this pain. It might be! But I’m curious, on a scale of 1 - 10, how sure are you that that’s the case?

“I don’t know … Seven? Eight? Pretty sure.”

So I’m going to say a statement, and let's have you see for yourself, just get a feel, for if this might be true. Okay?

“Okay.”

The statement you’re trying on for size is: My back hurts not because of what is happening in my hips, but because of my resistance to what is happening — the way things are wanting to go — in my hips.

“Hmmmm … Maybe. Maybe.”

Seeing as the premise you’ve been working with doesn’t seem to be working well ... right? that’s what you told me, that it’s been a lot of years trying to get into alignment with relief when you are but increasing amounts of time that you aren’t, and are trying to get there ... Seeing that that’s the case, can we suspend that belief, and look into some other options in this session?

“Sure, let’s do it.”

Great. If this starts to suck or feel like a waste of time, let me know and we’ll change gears, okay? This is not about believing in anything. It’s about what’s real, in a way that’s obvious once you feel it.

[ and so begins a session … ]

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Seeing Inside a Body with Alexander Tsiaras — ep 32 — is live

Fresh off the press.

Alexander Tsiaras is a modern-day Renaissance man who's been called the "Leonardo Da Vinci of the digital age." He's a scientist / artist who's part of creating a new look at human anatomy, and it's pretty revolutionary.

Images like this:

IMG_0008.jpg

He's authored two books I adore and give away often: The Architecture of Man and Woman — that's the one the image above is from — and From Conception to Birth: A Life Unfolds which is a gorgeous, intimate look into the 9-month journey.

Those books are how I found him, anyway. What unfolded was a conversation about the art and science of imaging the insides of a human being, even an embryo, and then so much about storytelling.

"Those running the healthcare industry of some of the shittiest storytellers out there." — AT

We have so many stats, and numbers and "should" in mainstream healthcare. We need, says Alexander and I am obliged to mostly agree after this talk, better storytelling, so that people are motivated to change.

For example, he's received stories from smokers who said they quit after seeing this image.

A thousand words, and more.

Enjoy! 💛 LB + TBA

As always, listen to this show on iTunes or any other podcast app, in the player below or download this episode here.

"Healing Wants to Happen" with Kate White — ep 31 — is live

If you've not tuned into this episode yet,* we've been getting lots of good feedback, especially from bodyworkers interested in incorporating more emotional-awareness-type tracking into their sessions.

(For anyone not in that world, this basically just means getting better at reading, and responding to, context and subtext. How someone says "my shoulder hurts" might tell you a lot about how to help them solve the dilemma that's causing their shoulder pain as what you find, i.e. the structural stuff.)

Kate White is a pre- and peri-natal therapist, and an expert in the autonomic nervous system, with lots of experience — both intellectual and that kind of knowing that sits in your guts and is felt — in the world of being born, at first and again.

Listen below, on your fave podcast app like iTunes, or download direct here.

*jeez, sorry this is a late post — this episode has been up for about 10 days. There's no other reason for that than that I forgot to post here when the episode went live; I'll do my best to remember, and do that, from now on.

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Traveling Lightly

💛 So, sometimes, I publish poetry on here, too — could be anyone's (this one's mine) — for this reason: the feeling elicited by a poem might capture something prose cannot. Or, as one of my favorite poets, David Whyte, said, it is "language against which we have no defenses."

TRAVELING LIGHTLY

For Love I would lay down
What I usually carry
So that I may travel faster
And more freely.

And so I do. 
The heavy shield, once mine, appears
Smaller behind me with every step. 
“What a remnant,” I think.

I don’t know why I waited so long. 
I was a fool! I’m one now, too.
I was afraid! I was afraid of my own death,
Of becoming something else.

Experiments turn to gestures, to new posture. 
So it is with traveling lightly:
You become something new merely by
Giving it a go — small steps — again and again.

— LB

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